For those who wish to combine their practice with more thorough study and learn in greater detail about the vast and profound buddhadharma, there is the Full Nine Yanas Path. For as Buddha himself said:
Through study we come to understand phenomena.
Through study we turn away from negative actions.
Through study we give up what is meaningless.
Through study we reach the state beyond sorrow.
Each stage of this graded Nine Yanas path contains detailed study, reflection, and meditation. Not only that, it also covers both the outer and inner tantras, thus covering the entire path to enlightenment from beginning to end, and is based on the blessed treasure teachings of Padmasambhava revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa in the 19th century.
What are the Nine Yanas?
The Sanskrit word ‘yana’ means vehicle, a set of teachings that when practiced ‘carry’ one to the level of fruition.
Buddha Shakyamuni gave a huge variety of different teachings in order to tame different sorts of people, who all have their individual capacities and inclinations, yet Buddha also explained that all these different paths and vehicles arrive ultimately at the same point ~ perfect, complete enlightenment. All the different paths that the Buddha taught are complete within the nine yanas.
Why practise the Nine Yanas?
Practising the nine yanas gives us an invaluable framework with which to better understand and implement the Buddha’s precious teachings. By studying, contemplating, and meditating in stages like the levels of a staircase, we can gain realization more swiftly. As Buddha taught:
Just as the steps of a staircase,
You should also train step-by-step
And endeavor in my profound teachings;
Without jumping the steps, proceed gradually to the end.
Just as a small child
Gradually develops its body and strength,
The Dharma is that same way,
From the steps of entering in the beginning
Up until the complete perfection.
—The Nirvana Sutra
Each of the nine yanas has its own unique view, conduct, meditation, and fruition, but they are not completely divorced from one another; each one beautifully clarifies the meaning of the previous one, and prepares the ground for the next. Hence learning the view, conduct, meditation, and fruition of the first vehicle helps clarify the view, meditation, conduct, and fruition of the second, and so forth in an ever-expanding upward spiral.
Phakchok Rinpoche’s teachings on the nine yanas are unusually complete and detailed, following a carefully structured set of study and practice materials. Rinpoche has compiled books for each yana containing a collection of texts by Indian panditas, Tibetan mahasiddhas, and words of the Buddha himself. Using these texts as a basis, during the annual Nine Yanas’ retreats Rinpoche unravels the essence of each yana’s meaning and explains in detail how to train in and implement these teachings in all aspects of our lives.
Students also receive the empowerments for the specific sadhanas for each yana. These sadhanas belong to the Rigsum Nyingtik (the Heart Essence of the Three Enlightened Families)—a branch teaching of the famous Three Sections of the Great Perfection (Dzogchen Desum) revealed by the great tertön Chokgyur Lingpa. This cycle of sadhanas invokesthe three protectors Avalokiteshvara (compassion), Manjushri(wisdom), and Vajrapani (power) as deities whose form transforms yana by yana. Alongside this sadhana practice, you can also engage in the Four Foundations, the three roots sadhana practice and so on if you wish.
Depending on your background, it takes an average of ten to eleven years to complete this entire course after which you will continue to receive further meditation teachings, ever-deepening your practice of Dzogchen (Atiyoga) for the course of your life.